The then District of West Kelowna was wrong when it fired a high-ranking firefighter because of an off-duty drunk driving incident.
In October 2013, after a “date night” at the Kelowna casino with his spouse, assistant fire chief Kerry Klonteig was pulled over on the floating bridge by police for speeding.
Klonteig admitted he had been drinking and after failing two roadside breath tests was given a 90 day driving prohibition and the vehicle was impounded for 30 days.
It was an unmarked fire department pickup truck.
A very remorseful Klonteig, who was a valued and exemplary employee, was fired from his $101,000 a year job later that day by the city’s chief administrative officer, Jason Johnson.
That was despite the recommendation of the fire chief and human resources manager that a lesser sanction, such as suspension, was appropriate.
But Johnson was outraged about Klonteig’s drunk driving in a fire department vehicle.
The termination letter stated: “This is a very serious incident as you were driving a District vehicle while impaired and consequently posed a threat to the safety of yourself and others travelling on the roads that evening. As well, the District vehicle was impounded. This is simply unacceptable for someone in your position whose job is to protect public safety.”
Klonteig later sued the city for wrongful dismissal and was seeking 18 months pay in compensation.
In her decision the judge ruled: “Mr. Klonteig’s off-duty conduct was not incompatible with his faithful discharge of his duties or otherwise prejudicial to the interests or reputation of the District, and that his termination was without cause.”
Klontgeig was awarded $42,325 which represents five months salary.
The City of West Kelowna is not commenting on the judge’s ruling.
Klontgeig now works for a company that provides industrial firefighting and decontamination for natural gas fracking sites in northern BC.
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